Tough economy begs strong vision

By Helaine Smith, DMD, MBA

July 21, 2009 -- Editor's note: Helaine Smith's column, The Mouth Physician, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

There is no doubt that the current economic situation has an impact on all our dental practices. As a small business, we are extremely vulnerable to the economic climate, and feel the impact of inflation and supply costs increasing. Additionally, many practices are seeing a slowdown in their production, with some even reporting that it is the worst decrease they have ever experienced.

It is my observation and opinion that practices that are well-run are weathering the economic downturn better than those that have poorly organized systems and mismanaged overhead and did not anticipate dentistry trends.

Having a clear vision and being able to adapt to situations that arise without abandoning your mission are essential for every business owner. Dental practices that have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for are able to continue to steer toward their destination despite the challenges of outside influences.

Mismanaged practices have suffered the most in this current economic crisis and are scrambling to stay afloat. The basic principles of small business, such as paying close attention to cash flow and overhead, must be followed. It is imperative that we review our profit and loss statements quarterly to have our finger on the pulse of where our money is spent.

But the biggest change we can make to overhead is examining our team. Are we overstaffed? Eliminating unnecessary positions is a great way to reduce overhead. Additionally, do we maximize each patient visit and educate patients on the concepts of prevention and quadrant dentistry? Do we harvest the patients in front of us, or do we overspend on advertising trying to get new patients?

I recently had the opportunity to visit American Eagle Instruments in Missoula, MT. The corporate culture there fostered a cohesive group of 90 employees all working as an enthusiastic team. The company hosts a lunch for employees once a month, and the CEO has been financially compassionate to several employees who have serious health compromises. American Eagle is doing well despite the economy and those dentists who believe their practices are hurting. American Eagle exemplifies a well-run organization that pays attention to all aspects of business and thus weathers the storm well.

The dental profession as a whole would be well-advised to follow American Eagle's example if we want to survive and even flourish during these tough times.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2009


To read this and get access to all of the exclusive content on create a free account or sign-in now.

Member Sign In:
MemberID or email address:  
Do you have a password?
No, I want a free membership.
Yes, I have a password:  
Forgot your password?
Sign in using your social networking account:
Sign in using your social networking